Need For Early Literacy Programming
Children from low-income households trail behind their higher-income counterparts in literacy at an astounding level. According to research, youth from low income families typically score at or above the average level in reading at half the rate of children from more privileged homes. Poverty negatively affects both material resources and learning resources, which youth need to achieve early literacy development. Research shows that there is a drastic difference between access to these material resources in impoverished communities as compared to wealthier communities: in low income communities, only one book title is available for every 300 children, as compared to 13 book titles available for every child in middle class communities.
Raising A Reader Programming
The Raising A Reader program currently serves over 350 children ages three to five at Children’s Home & Aid’s Early Childhood Care & Education Centers. The Raising A Reader program marries two of the Early Childhood Care & Education Centers’ goals: 1) to ensure that children are “kindergarten ready” when they leave the program at age five and 2) to work with parents and caregivers to support their involvement in the education of their children. The program supports early brain development, parent-child bonding and early literacy skills by encouraging parents to read with their children and engage their child in positive parent-child activities that support emergent language and literacy skills.
The Raising A Reader program allows staff to work with children and parents of various cultural backgrounds and literacy levels to teach them how to engage in language sharing and reading activities through the use of culturally sensitive books. Children receive “Red Book Bags” filled with books and materials to use at home. Parents are given training and support to engage in “Book Cuddling” activities at home. By involving the entire family in Raising A Reader activities, parents become positive role models for reading. In addition to building the relationship between parent and child, Raising A Reader programming also helps ignite a love for education in low-income children which, in turn, helps to put them on equal footing with their middle-to upper-class peers once they enter Kindergarten.
The Impact Of Raising A Reader—A Success Story
There was a great enthusiasm for the Raising A Reader program when it was first introduced that continued throughout the year, with parents and teachers in the Freidheim Center’s other classrooms eagerly inquiring about when the program would be expanded to serve them as well. The “Red Book Bags” filled with parent-child books and literacy activity materials that the children went home with created a ‘buzz’ at the Freidheim Center, making the families involved in the program feel privileged to participate, enhancing their commitment. One parent commented on her experience with the program by saying, ‘For the first time ever my family finally has a routine, first the red bag, then showers, then bed.’ By involving the entire family in literacy and reading activities, the Raising A Reader program has helped parents become positive role models for reading.